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Teen Drivers - Distractions and Other Risk Factors

Obviously, there are some pretty big differences in the danger factors between teen drivers and adults -- not the least of which are inexperience, risk taking, immaturity and greater risk exposure.

The good news is if we are paying attention, we can help kids stay more focused on safety as they navigate the teen driving years (and possibly reduce our own risks as fellow drivers).

The Facts:

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the crash rate per miles driven is four times higher for 15 to 20 year olds than for drivers over age 20. The National Highway and Transportation Safety Administration reports that motor vehicle crashes are the number one cause of death for younger drivers, and that distracted driving is a factor in one out of every four crashes.

What�s Behind It?

A recent policy statement �The Teen Driver� from the American Academy of Pediatrics cites these reasons teens are at greater risk:

* Lack of driver experience
* Young age at licensure
* Failure to use safety belts
* Inadequate hazard-perception skills
* Distraction (cellular phone, food, drink, music)
* Transporting teenaged passengers
* Nighttime driving
* Speeding and reckless driving
* Fatigue
* Unsafe vehicle choice
* Alcohol use
* Drug or medication use
* Inadequate parental limit setting
* Unlicensed or revoked license

The Distractor Factor!

The study also reports a direct correlation between the chances of being in a car crash to the number of teen passengers. 16- to 17-year olds have a 40 percent higher risk of crashing when they have one friend in the car, 50 percent higher with two friends, and four times higher with three or more teen passengers!

The IIHS & NHTSA recommend the following for parents:

* Don�t rely solely on drivers' education � it may be convenient but typically it doesn�t do as good a job as a parent can at focusing on safety attitudes and decision making.
* Know the law � Restrictions on beginning drivers vary by state.
* Restrict night driving � it requires more skill and is generally more recreational � creating distraction and more risk taking.
* Restrict passengers � especially multiple teens. Nights are worse than days but passengers are always distractions for a beginning driver.
* Supervise practice driving � spread it over six months, continue even after full licensure and include night driving and a variety of other driving situations.
* Remember that you are a role model � practice safe driving yourself to increase the odds your child will drive safely.
* Require safety belt use � don�t assume, but insist that your child wear a safety belt at all times.
* Prohibit drinking � adopt a no-tolerance policy. Even a small amount of alcohol is an impairment to a teen.
* Choose vehicles for safety, not image � select cars with the best protection in a crash and avoid cars that encourage speeding.
* Make sure your child has emergency contact information with him or her at all times -- especially in the car.

Some parents use a written driving agreement to outline their expectations, set penalties and establish graduated driving privileges in advance. The elements of a driving agreement can include obeying laws, practicing safe behaviors and even maintaining the car.

Submitted by:

Valerie Nay

Valerie Nay is the founder of http://www.EmergencyContacts.com and writes a free monthly newsletter full of valuable information to help you and your family stay safe.


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